Sep 11 2013

Pittsburgh Symphony at the Lucerne Festival

Published by at 7:58 pm under PSO 2013 European Tour

Serways salad bar

Serways salad bar

The trip to Lucerne from Frankfurt was sunny and smooth. Even the rest stop operated by Serways was a delight with its terrific salad bar, outdoor and indoor café, shopping for beer steins, a wide selection of Ritter Sport candy bars, magazines and newspapers, beer, and a clean wash zimmer with admittance through turnstiles after depositing 70 euro cents.

The sunshine on arrival turned out to be the most abundant of the last three days. Even with a gray sky and cold wind, Lucerne is a delight. The Pittsburgh Symphony’s first concert at the Lucerne Festival was totally sold out.

With Anne-Sophie Mutter

With Anne-Sophie Mutter

Anne-Sophie Mutter sparkled once more at rehearsal and in her last tour performance of the Dvorak Concerto. She charmed everyone once again at the BNY Mellon reception in the Panorama Foyer with a magnificent view of the lake at night. Did I hear her correctly that she will open the season 2014? She seems to genuinely enjoy working with the orchestra and Manfred Honeck and says it is like making chamber music. She keeps in touch with former husband André Previn and looks forward to hearing the double concerto he is working on.

After Monday’s rehearsal, I stopped by the Musik Hug shop next to the 14th-century Kappelbrucke or Chapel Bridge. New releases on the wall were from Ry Cooder and Sheryl Crow. There is an enormous selection of yodelers.

I checked out the 30-room boutique hotel designed by Jean Nouvel about 10 years ago. He’s the superstar architect who designed Lucerne’s Kultur und Kongresszentrum. Nouvel created a design for a new Carnegie Science Center but the project became too expensive and was scrapped.

Room at "The Hotel"

Room at "The Hotel"

The hotel is called simply “The Hotel.” It’s located on a quiet Platz with the Lukaskirche just a block from the train station. Movie stills from some of the architect’s favorite films were blown up and pasted on the rooms’ ceilings. I was shown two rooms, both with erotic scenes above the bed, with a superimposed line of text from the script. The movies include Fellini’s Casanova and Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book. You might want to ask for Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky, Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire,  or David Lynch’s Lost Highway. The hotel’s restaurant Bam Bou serves fusion cuisine with an Asian slant, average entrée – 50 euros. The hallways are gray and industrial, like some of the inner spaces at the Kultur and Kongresszentrum where the Festival takes place. A studio room can be had for 370 Swiss francs. The very sweet staff at the front desk told me that architect Nouvel stays at least every other year when he visits Lucerne.

KKL entrance

KKL entrance

In a previous blog, I attempted to describe the massive Kongresszentrum with it’s cantilevered roof and amazing feature bringing water right into the lobby – complete with what sounds like rushing water. The design includes red hallways with carpet, little dots of red in the low-hanging ceiling on the lower theater entrance level, blue lights glow in the concert hall, you enter the hall through massive double chambers of broad gray doors and rubbery walls.

The World Café attached to the left side of the complex is unlike any cafeteria I’ve ever visited. It combines fast service and elegance. The choices include fruit tarts, amoretti, coffee, a dish from Tunisia, the Philippines. Germany and other far flung places; salads, wraps, quiches and the Swiss beers Braugold and Erdinger.

Upstairs, I visited the modern art museum featuring two young Swiss artists: Ida Ekblad and Christine Streuli with John Chamberlain. The museum is on the fourth floor.

Everyone agreed that concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley’s solo in “Ein Heldenleben” was flawless.
The night closed with two encores of Schubert and the waltz from “Der Rosenkavalier.”

Martin Grubinger

Martin Grubinger

Wednesday, there was a full rehearsal with percussion whiz Martin Grubinger – still in his 20’s. He’s fun to watch as he moves between three percussion stations, two at the front of the stage and one at the back. Theatrical, making the percussion instruments sound in the most musical way. He brought to life the John Corigliano Conjurer Concerto – then played an encore on Tuesday night of a happy Gary Burton jazz arrangement. First he moved a microphone from the SRF, saying you never know when you might get a good recording. Grübinger explained in German that he had appeared at the festival in August with a salsa band, playing the music he was about to play, but this time without the salsa band. He also praised the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in their work together which will continue tomorrow night in Bonn.

Ricola!

Ricola!

Huei-Sheng Kao

Huei-Sheng Kao

In the orchestra dressing room, I enjoyed once more the wonderful photographs of musicians who’ve visited across the 75 years of the Lucerne Festival: Sviatoslav Richter, Herbert von Karajan, Rafael Kubelik, and Riccardo Muti, shown gritting his teeth.

There was an enormous pallet of the Ricola cough drops that are available throughout the hall. Also, programs from the past concerts which I couldn’t resist picking up to add to the heaviest suitcases known to man.

After rehearsal, I ran into Huei-Sheng Kao with his lunch from the train station grocery, a plastic box of sushi. He stopped for a photo in front of the hundreds of bicycles and motorcycles parked there.

Rosengart by Picasso

Rosengart by Picasso

This afternoon, I joined the patrons for one last event before they headed home. We visited the Sammlung Rosengart, just a few blocks away from the festival hall. The Rosengart Collection has wonderful gallery of Picassos collected by Angela Rosengart and her father. Picasso painted Miss Rosengart five times. She arrived in person at the end of the tour. There is no special air of privilege about her at all. She never married, making you think Picasso may have been the love of her life – even though their relationship appears to have been a deep friendship. She spoke so cheerfully and warmly. I asked her if Picasso’s reputation as a womanizer was true. She said the film about his life greatly exaggerated it. She had known most of the artists also found in the museum, Miró, Fernand Léger, and Marc Chagall, but she said Picasso was by far her favorite. She has donated the collection, now housed in an a former bank building, to the city .

For their second program at the Lucerne Festival, Manfred Honeck conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony in the  “Conjurer” Concerto, Rapsodie Espagnole, Bolero, and gave as encores the Fauré Pavane and Khachaturian Galop, which tonight included the “amber waves of grain” tune from America the Beautiful in the cadenza played by Michael Rusinek. Leaving the Kultur and Kongresszentrum afterward, I noticed the big semi tractor-trailer rigs were loading out inside the building but visible through glass walls. You can hear tonight’s concert through the Swiss Radio SRF 2 Kultur website. Tune in Thursday, September 12 at 20:00 Uhr. That’s 2:00 pm EDT!

Swiss Radio van

Swiss Radio van

I also have the links for you for some of the French coverage of Yuja Wing’s visit to Paris.

They were TF 1 (Télévision Française – private TV, biggest in France) and France 2 (Public national TV).

There was a great review in the Frankfurter Rundschau of the concert at the Alte Oper, which glosses over a blip from one of the winds in the Bolero. The Berlin reviews were very mixed, taking to task the overpowering sound of the brass and suggesting that Manfred Honeck should have had more imagination in the Janacek. Based on what I’m hearing, I am sure there will be enough quotable quotes from reviews to prove satisfying.

P1160138hall wider+

P1160138hall wider+

There was a small protest with banners in front of the concert hall on Tuesday night. The German government has merged the two orchestras of Baden Baden and Freiburg of the Southwest German Radio Orchestra.The protesters handed out bright green flyers suggesting you should let your legislators know you disagree with their decision. The SWR choir from Stuttgart was wonderful on Monday night, with strong and incisive singing in Stravinsky’s The King of the Stars and Bartok’s Cantata Profana. The Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra was conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado, a young conductor who now leads the Orchestra of St Luke’s.

The Pittsburgh Symphony is on its way now to Bonn, Germany to perform at the Beethoven Festival in the final two concerts of this European Festivals tour. Auf wiedersehen!